“Citizen’s United” is the short form of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. Citizen’s United prevailed in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision handed down January 21st, 2010. Fix that date in your mind. When most Americans hear “Citizens United” they think about money in politics. Some others might think of free speech and the First Amendment, others of corporate personhood.
So what is “Citizens United?” You might think of upright average Americans united against some perceived injustice, a grassroots sort of organization with lofty, high-minded goals. Well, not quite. As a 501(c)(4) non-profit Citizens United does not disclose its donors, so its claim of “grassroots” is unverifiable. Its current webpage reads like the Trump platform. David Bossie has been president of Citizen’s United since 2000, except for a stint as deputy manager of the Trump campaign. Bossie is a longtime friend of Trump, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway. Bossie introduced Bannon to Trump.
David Bossie also heads Citizens United Productions (organized as a corporation?). Citizens United Productions has made twenty-five anti-liberal, anti-Democrat political documentaries. One of these, Hillary: The Movie, Citizens United purposefully proposed to air immediately before the Democratic Primary in 2008 (Clinton/Obama) in violation of the McCain-Feingold Act of 2002, the last legislative effort to try to curb the influence of big money in politics. The timing of this proposed movie airing was no accident. The possibility of a 5-4 decision at the Supreme Court reversing an essential part of McCain-Feingold was a tantalizing goal. The setup succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of the folks who set it up. More on that in Part II.
The next time you hear “Citizens United,” do not succumb to the image of a mass of common citizens seeking to assert their First Amendment rights. The name was no doubt chosen to obscure the agenda of its backers and hangers-on. Think David Bossie, Steve Bannon, and big money seeking control of the system, think of the culmination of a long running war between Republican/Libertarian money and Democratic efforts reduce the effect of that money.
McMorris Rodgers must approve of efforts to keep corporate money flowing into politics and to obscure the origin of the cash. Yesterday I detailed her vote for H.R.5053 – “Preventing IRS Abuse and Protecting Free Speech Act of 2016.” It passed the House but stalled in the Senate. It would have forbidden the IRS to require names of substantial donors to non-profits, reducing IRS effectiveness and darkening non-profit money even further. In 2010 McMorris Rodgers voted no with her Party on the DISCLOSE ACT, a detailed attempt to close the floodgates Citizens United had just opened. Surely if asked whether she supports the Citizens United decision she would utter her nervous laugh and pivot, but she and her comrades speak volumes with their votes.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. Researching the money behind Citizens United is challenging. It appears that one man, David Bossie, heads several different entities. For example, Citizens United is identified as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit. Citizens United Productions, I suspect (but have been unable to confirm), may be organized as a corporation. Then there is CITIZENS UNITED SUPER PAC LLC and CITIZENS UNITED POLITICAL VICTORY FUND. The latter is a traditional “qualified” political action committee, the former is obviously a superPAC. You can explore their donors at those links (FEC.gov), but that tells you nothing about the financial backing of Citizens United the nonprofit or Citizens United Productions, the suspected corporation. I recommend Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” (2016) for a background exploration of the money and personalities of the backers. Warning: Don’t read Dark Money at bedtime. You won’t sleep well.